I happened to notice that the movie Kiss King Bang Bang is playing on the Ovation channel, and they'll be repeating it on Sunday. I can't say that it's for everyone -- it's violent with tons of rough language -- but I am not a fan of violence, and I love this movie. So, if you get the channel it's worth setting the DVR.
They have it listed as a comedy, but it's not. It's a detective story, and an homage to film noirs, which turns the genre inside out. Back when it was originally released, 2005, I wrote an article for the Huffington Post, "Four Great Movies You May Never Heard Of," that had been made that year, all of which met with ignominious fates. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang was one of them. The standard I set for for the movies included wasn't that they were unknown and wonderful -- those kinds of things happen all the time. The point was that I noticed that a whole bunch of really great big movies were being dumped by their studios. And so the criteria for my article was that these were all major films, from major studios, with major casts...and were all great -- but were each almost totally unknown. At this point, a decade has passed, and so it's possible that they've been seen now, but they're still obscure, with one exception.
(That one -- The Greatest Game Ever Played -- has garnered well-deserved attention because it's a true story about golf, and so the Golf Channel plays it all the time. (This is not a case of they're playing it "just" because it's about golf to fill up the time. There are a bunch of golf movies that they rarely play. The Legend of Bagger Vance and Caddyshack, for instance. But they show The Greatest Game Ever Played over and over. If audiences didn't like it and the ratings sucked eggs, they wouldn't keep re-airing it relentlessly. The fact that they show it so often speaks to how really wonderfully it is.)
This is what what I wrote back in 2005 about Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. As you'll see, it was not obscure film at the time. This was a major project.
Hardly obscure participants - it starred Robert Downey, Jr., and Val Kilmer, and was the directing debut of its screenwriter Shane Black, who wrote such monster hits as Lethal Weapon and Last Action Hero. This movie took the film noir detective genre and hilariously turned it on its ear, joyously playing with all the conventions, right down to the last goofball scene. Violent at times with some rough language, it's an action-filled buddy movie, with clever plot twists all over the place and unexpected humor around every dark, shadowy corner. And you probably haven't heard of it.
As you can see, that's no small, little independent film. The biggest problem the movie had is that the studio didn't know what to do with it. Shane Black did a Q&A at the Writers Guild Theater after a screening, and he was really pissed off at the studio. It's a violent detective story, yet it's also incredibly funny, but it's so well-made and crafted that at times it has the sensibility almost of an art film. So, the studio didn't get it and had no clue how to promote it. So, they have it a very small release, sold it wrong, and no one went.
Despite how exceedingly well-directed the film is, because of its monumental failure Shane Black didn't get the chance to direct again for a long time, though he did keep getting writing assignments. Finally, last year, eight years later, he wrote and directed Iron Man 3. (Perhaps helped by the fact that Robert Downey Jr. starred in both films.) And he now has another film in pre-production.
Anyway, at this point, nine years later, some of you may have seen Kiss Kiss Bang Bang by now. It has a 7.7 rating out of 10 on the iMDB, and an 84% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes, so it's not just me who thinks it's an absolutely terrific film. It's of course available on Netflix, if you don't get Ovation, so no worries. I repeat that it's not for everyone, but if this sort of thing is up your alley, do try to track it down.
Here's the trailer. It doesn't really come close to doing the movie justice, but given that Warner Bros. didn't have a clue what the movie was -- and it does cover a lot of ground from film noir, comedy, romance, spoof and action thriller, and is offbeat for good measure -- they at least did a respectable job of trying.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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